Eat the Rainbow: Paint your Plate

Have you heard the phrase “eat the rainbow”? Beyond being a catchy saying, it can actually hold a lot of nutritional truth!

Eating the rainbow means ensuring your diet is full of colourful foods. Many of us can be guilty of “beige diets” (e.g. chips, pasta, bread, etc). At Love Your Gut, we recognise that all foods can have a place in our diet but it’s important to focus on including plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables as this ensures diversity – something our gut bugs love!


Why does colour variety matter?

There are many daily nutritional recommendations to aim for, from 5 portions of fruit and vegetables to 30g of fibre, 40mg of vitamin C, 700µg of vitamin A, 3,500mg of potassium, 1mg thiamine, 300mg of magnesium… and plenty more!1 It can sometimes feel overwhelming to hit all these targets.

However, eating the rainbow can be a really good starting point. By doing so, there’s a good chance you’ll be consuming a wide variety of essential nutrients!2 While other foods are important to ensure you’re achieving all your nutritional needs, the goal of “eat the rainbow” can be a strong foundation for a healthy diet and help improve overall health.3

Research consistently shows that fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lots of health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality.4 Fruits and vegetables contain a wealth of nutritional components, but certain colours can be higher in certain compounds.

Red – contain antioxidants, including lycopene, which may:5-6
• help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol
• protect against cardiovascular disease

Note: Lycopene is more easily absorbed in the body when it’s cooked (e.g., roasted tomatoes).7-8

Love Your Gut recipes incorporating red foods such as tomatoes, berries and peppers:
Meatless meatballs with herb flavoured tomato sauce
Granola pots with strawberry compote and yogurt
Baked mixed berry pudding with a coconut and almond crumb topping
Roasted red pepper, rosemary and sunflower seed pâté

Orange & Yellow – contain beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A and helps:9-10
• our immune system function normally
• with vision in dim light
• maintain healthy skin

Love Your Gut recipes including orange and yellow foods such as sweetcorns, pineapples and carrots:
Pan-fried salmon with celery, sweetcorn and olive salsa
Pineapple, banana and orange smoothie
Roasted baby carrot salad with walnuts, puy lentils and feta

Green – contains folate, a type of B-vitamin which helps:11
• form healthy red blood cells
• reduce the risk of birth defects (e.g., spina bifida)

Love Your Gut recipes with green foods such as spinach, peas, asparagus and avocados:
Spinach and potato cakes
Risotto with peas and asparagus
Avocado, peas and feta on toast with poached eggs

Purple – contain a compound called anthocyanins, which may help reduce the risk of:12-13
• inflammation
• diabetes
• some cancers
• cardiovascular disease

Love Your Gut recipes containing purple foods such as plums, aubergines and red onions:
Honey baked plums with toasted pistachio & sweet saffron labneh
Aubergine dip with wheat free pitta
Platter of roasted Mediterranean vegetables, buffalo mozzarella, tapenade, and pesto

Remember, it’s the overall diet which is important rather than a single food or food group.

Eating the rainbow is a simple strategy to ensure you’re getting a wide range of vitamin and minerals in your diet – keeping your body and mind happy and healthy!

So, next time you’re planning your meals, add a splash of colour!

Check out our other Love Your Gut blogs here.

 

References

1. NHS. (2020) Overview: Vitamins and Minerals. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/
2. Minich (2019) J Nutr Metab, 2125070.
3. Blumfield et al. (2022) Molecules, 27(13): 4061.
4. Aune et al. (2017) Int J Epidemiol, 46(3): 1029–1056.
5. Khan et al. (2021) Oxid Med Cell Longev, 2713511.
6. Imran et al. (2020) Antioxidants, 9(8): 706.
7. Gärtner et al. (1997) Am J Clin Nutr, 66:116–122.
8. Stahl et al. (1992) J Nutr, 122: 2161–2166.
9. VanBuren & Everts (2022) Nutrients, 14(14):2952.
10. Sajovic et al. (2022) Int J Mol Sci, 23(3), 1014.
11. Krishnaswamy & Madhavan Nair (2001) Br J Nutr, 85 (Suppl 2): S115–S124.
12. Yousuf et al. (2016) Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 56(13): 2223–2230.
13. Mattioli et al. (2020) Molecules, 25(17): 3809.